JROTC is needed

Published 11:29 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

A little military-style self-discipline could go a long way toward rescuing a generation of high school students plagued by low ambition and declining academic achievement.

For that reason, we’re thrilled about the prospects of an Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program being launched at Franklin High School next fall.

The JROTC initiative, spearheaded by Franklin-Southampton Futures, got a huge boost recently with confirmation of significant start-up funding from the Camp foundations, which give so generously to worthy causes in this community. Futures representatives plan to get busy after the first of the year raising the additional money needed — more than $100,000 in all — to get the program off the ground.

Futures, which is living up to its name, sees JROTC as one means of laying the foundation for our community’s long-range well-being. The high school students of today will be the adult leaders — or failures — of tomorrow.

JROTC is a proven tool for instilling discipline and building self-esteem in teenage boys and girls, and Franklin High School will benefit tremendously from the corps’ presence on campus. We applaud the Franklin City School Board for embracing the project.

Regrettably, the Southampton County School Board turned down an invitation to be part of the initiative and to work cooperatively with Franklin schools for the benefit of this community and its young people.

County School Board Chairman Russell Schools and his colleagues have some explaining to do. A written statement by Superintendent Charles Turner in response to a reporter’s questioning about the county board’s decision was woefully lacking both in logic and detail.

Blaming the county’s refusal to participate on state budget cuts make no sense when the JROTC initiative is being supported entirely by private dollars. Once it’s off the ground, the program is likely to qualify for U.S. Department of Defense funding in future years.

There may be a good reason not to participate in JROTC, but money isn’t it. To the contrary, the county schools should be thrilled, in a time of when their government funding is certain to shrink, that community organizations like the Camp foundations and Futures are willing to invest in the schools’ long-range success.